Washington Prowler

Chairless Democrats

Can a single human being possibly replace Terry McAuliffe?

By 11.22.04

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The fight over who will take over the floundering Democratic National Committee continued to rage going into the Thanksgiving holiday, with rumors swirling that current DNC head Terry McAuliffe might insert himself into the process.

McAuliffe, who is stepping down, and who, had he not announced his leaving, most likely would have been forced out given the party's lack of success during his tenure, has been asked for guidance by some senior DNC members, according to a DNC staffer.

The race for the chairmanship has been muddled, with everyone from former Vermont Gov. Howie Dean to former Clinton cabinet member Alexis Herman throwing their hats into the ring.

Last week saw Donnie Fowler, son of former DNC chairman Don Fowler, place his name into the nomination race. Fowler, a rising star in the Democratic Party, briefly worked on the Wesley Clark campaign, before signing on to the Kerry campaign as its on-the-ground organizer in Michigan.

One man who hasn't been particularly aggressive in seeking the job, but who remains a frontrunner, is Clinton adviser Harold Ickes. Ickes, who advised both Bill and Hillary Clinton, and who ran one of the Democratic 527s in this election cycle, is thought to be the choice of some of the DNC establishment with ties to the Clintons. It is believed that the Clintons have given their approval to his candidacy.

"I'm not sure the Democratic Party would hand itself over to a guy who's in bed with both the Clintons and organized labor to the degree that Harold is," says a DNC fundraiser. "That Northeast liberal thing hasn't panned out for us lately."

Indeed, Ickes is by all accounts a dyed-in-the-wool mainstream Democrat. The sort that financed the bulk of the Democratic Party's efforts this past election cycle. Ickes has deep ties to organized labor, not only in New York, but across the country. If the Democratic Party has any hopes of cutting ties with its failed past, and move beyond its populist leanings, the assumption has been that it will have to find alternative financing sources beyond labor. Ickes wouldn't be that man.

However, he is viewed as an important figure to the future of the party, particularly if Hillary Clinton is part of that future.

Some DNC insiders are now predicting that the party's national committee may split the chairmanship into two jobs, one for Ickes, where his fundraising and old-line DNC connections would help with continuity and keep the Democratic base happy, and another job, perhaps for someone like Simon Rosenberg, a comparatively young Democrat, who founded the New Democrat Network.

Rosenberg's group has grown increasingly influential among moderate Democrats, and Rosenberg is thought to be a more mainstream alternative to the likes of Dean.

"Splitting the job might be the best way to get what the party needs, a candidate that makes the Clintons happy, and a candidate the builds on whatever young, moderate support we have built up over the past six years," says the DNC fundraiser.

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